WORLD FIRST: Louis Washkansky in surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital undergoing the world’s first heart transplant by Professor Christiaan Barnard and his medical team.Picture: Cape Newspapers/Trace Images
Exactly 50-years-ago Groote Schuur Hospital's name was put on the world map for pioneering the world's human heart transplant that was performed by Professor Chris Barnard.

Since the hospital opened in 1938, it has maintained high standards of service, branding itself as one of the best teaching and public sector hospitals in the country, despite budgetary constraints.

Not only has it trained and groomed some of the best medics in the country who are sought after all over the world - including doctors, nurses and allied health personnel - but it is one of the most innovative health centres, often making medical breakthroughs.

While the hospital is known for performing the world’s first human heart surgery, the institution and its teaching arm, UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, have claimed many firsts over the years.


These are some of the “world’s first” innovations achieved by Groote Schuur Hospital since the 1950s:

1956: Physicist Allan Cormack develops the theoretical underpinnings of the CT (computed tomography) scanner, which led to him sharing the 1979 Nobel Prize for his work in medicine.

1965: The first rapid warming device for massive blood transfusions was developed.

1967 (December 3): The first human heart transplant by a team led by Professor Chris Barnard.

1968: The hospital’s department of surgery carried out the world’s first cross-circulation between baboon and man.

1974: The first fallopian tube transplant took place.

1974: South Africa’s first bone marrow transplant was performed.

1975: The first vascularised human fallopian tube transplant was performed.

1980s: The first (and only) sperm bank in South Africa was established in the early 1980s.

1981: Method invented for storing donor hearts by hypothermic perfusion.

1983: The first human liver transplant achieved using the heterotropic technique.

1989: A technique to locate brain tumours without invasive surgery was discovered.

2001: The department of neurosurgery introduced endovascular surgery to treat brain aneurysms, as an alternative to conventional brain surgery.

2008: The first HIV positive-to-positive kidney transplant.

2011: An ENT (ear, nose and throat) team performed ground-breaking surgery by implanting bone-anchored hearing aids (Baha) directly into the skull of two young patients.

2015: The first combined ultrasound and mammography device tested.

2016: The first open heart surgery performed through keyhole surgery.

2017: The first brain operation through the eye.